Chicken and Dumplings / by Dale Wiley

Day Two of the book tour went well. It was filled with two radio interviews, a book signing, and then more driving.

And it contained one of those interactions that when it happened, I knew this was going to be an epic road trip for the ages.

I was sitting in the lobby of a radio station where my interview was. I did more than one interview, so you will have to guess. The details and one joke have been changed to protect the innocent.

I sat down and waited to go in. It was me and a receptionist. She asked if I wanted water I told her I did. There wasn't much else to say, far as I could see. But I was wrong.

Our of the blue, very much like a moment from an early Twin Peaks episode, the woman popped up and started filling me in on a chicken and dumplings recipe. I wish I could remember more of the specifics, but I was in "talk about the book" mode, and was utterly prepared to take mental notes about a recipe. Something something noodles and you'd never guess those would be good and what about turning biscuits into donuts (NB: is that some sort of alchemy? Is that possible? I am unaware of this and I've led a pretty full life!). I nodded appropriately. I am a good appropriate nodder. But I was surprised at the quick turn that conversation took.

Now you probably think that's the end of the chicken and dumplings story. You're wrong.

We were moments away from my going into the studio, both gazing at our shoes, when she pipes up with, "you know, I always loved my aunt's chicken and dumplings recipe, but when she gave it to me, it never tasted good."Maybe she wasn't as good a cook as her aunt? Who knows. I guess I was more mentally prepared the second time around, but I was going to ride the chicken and dumplings train back to the station. But surprisingly, she wanted to talk smack on her aunt.She threw some serious shade: "I don't think she included all the ingredients. People will do that, you know."

And people, I have to tell you I am ashamed. There I was, with my positive mindset and my never having met this woman's aunt in my life (but imagining her with a bowl cut since that's what the receptionist had), I piled on! I don't know why, but I did! "People are crazy," I said, continuing with the appropriate nodding. "I know that happens."

I guess I know that probably happens, or has happened, but I couldn't swear to it under oath. Not from personal experience anyway. I have asked for very few recipes in my life, and to my knowledge, they have all been complete and delish. But in my strange fascination at what might be said next about chicken and dumplings, I just threw the old bowl-coiffed aunt under the bus and called her an ingredient withholder.

At this point, I really wanted to know where this might go, but the door opened and I was ushered in to the interview.

There are more things that happened on this trip, but the chicken and dumplings couldn't wait. I'm in Murfreesboro headed south. I'll talk atcha later.